Everyone agrees that it is important to pass along the Catholic faith to future generations, but too frequently we assume that it's someone else's responsibility.
The truth is that we can all help to strengthen faith formation in our parishes! We can all find ways to make the passing along of the Catholic faith a priority, and, in the process, we can strengthen our own Catholic faith.
Here are some suggestions on how to do that.
Learn your faith
Many Catholic adults don't know very much about their faith. When was the last time you spent some time learning about Scripture, Catholic tradition, Church history, prayer or Catholic spirituality? Do you know what the Church teaches about some of the ethical dilemmas created by science and technology? Do you want to deepen your prayer life? Do you need to strengthen your relationship with God?
Most parishes have faith formation programs that are designed to strengthen the faith of everyone, from the smallest youngsters to senior citizens. Watch the bulletin for announcements or call the faith formation office for a calendar of faith formation events in your parish.
Attend parish programs
Whether your parish faith formation team is offering a lecture series, Scripture study, small group faith sharing, mini-course or seminar, take the opportunity to attend. As you grow in understanding of your faith, you'll find that your spiritual life will expand in ways you never imagined possible.
Extend an invitation
Reach out to family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Tell them how your parish faith formation program has helped you strengthen your relationship with God or with the Catholic Church. Invite them to join you at the next parish event. Sometimes people want to grow in faith, but they don't know how to start. And sometimes people are simply reluctant to go to an event alone. Your invitation could be just what someone needs to become more involved in the parish. It could be the vehicle for someone who has fallen away from the practice of their Catholic faith to return to the Church.
Volunteer to help
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in parish faith formation. If you don't feel confident enough to be a catechist or a small group leader, volunteer to be a classroom aide, an office assistant, a hallway monitor, a publicity person, a kitchen worker or someone who bakes cookies for events. The more involved you get in faith formation activities, the more connected you will feel to God, the Church and the people in your parish.
Find out what other parishes are doing. Talk to family members and friends in other parts of the country to find out what their parishes are doing in faith formation. They may have successful new ways to reach teens or exciting new ways to engage young married couples. Maybe they launched a new vacation Bible school or started a multigenerational program that attracts people of all ages. Or they might have horror stories about what didn't work. Feel free to share the information with your faith formation team.
Chances are the director of religious education in your parish has dreams of what he or she would like to happen. It might be a need for new equipment or the implementation of a new program. It might be bringing in a well-known speaker or organizing a new event. Ask about those dreams. Suggest that the parish make a dream list and then begin to work on making those dreams come true.
If you have the ability to financially support your parish faith formation program, you can be sure it will be one of the best investments that you can make. If you can't donate money, you might be able to help raise additional funds for the program.
Collect Catholic books
One of the best ways to support your parish faith formation is to support your parish library. Donate books, subscriptions to Catholic newspapers or magazines, videos and reference materials. If your parish doesn't have a library, start one. A parish library does not even need a room of its own -- books can be "checked out" from a cart in the commons or from a small book shelf in the parish lounge or social hall.
Everyone has God-given gifts and talents that can be used to help your parish faith formation program. It might be someone who can draw, sew, cook, write, sing, play an instrument, take photographs or make crafts. It might be someone who is a natural teacher or public speaker. It might be someone who can facilitate a small group or organize a group of teens.
There are people out there waiting to be asked to help in a meaningful way. If you know any of these people, ask them if they would be willing to share their gifts, and then introduce them to your director of religious education.
Lorene Hanley Duquin writes from New York.